I’m convinced that Clinton was the better option, but I haven’t seen enough content on my Facebook feed that seriously challenged my beliefs. I often find myself going out of my way to read sites like Fox News, which never appeared on my newsfeed even though it gets more than 65 million monthly visits and millions of social shares.
Our digital social existence has turned into a huge echo chamber, where we mostly discuss similar views with like-minded peers and miserably fail to penetrate other social bubbles that are often misled by fear and xenophobia. This is especially damaging because peer views and referrals are the strongest, most convincing form of marketing.
As a Muslim, an African Arab, and an immigrant, I will probably be among those most impacted by Trump’s presidency, but I refuse to believe that half of America is racist. I think that many Trump voters would have re-thought their vote if they had heard the views of close friends who would be directly impacted by Trump policies. When Fox News tells me how awful a president Obama has been, it is different from my friend in Michigan who tells me how life under Obama has been getting worse and why he seeks change.
Facebook is not alone in this. Google also filters the search results based on your location and previous searches and clicks. The social bubbles that Facebook and Google have designed for us are shaping the reality of your America. We only see and hear what we like. Until the election results, a little more than half of us didn’t realize that the other half of the country was frustrated enough to elect Trump. We all thought that Clinton would easily crush Trump this election, given how much crazy shit the guy has said. This includes polls by mathematicians who must have developed their biases somewhere.
Many real-life communities are already segregated by color, class, political, and cultural views. Facebook, Google and other networks are our online communities, and they are similarly segregated. We need to remind ourselves that there are humans on the other side of the screen who want to be heard and can think and feel like us while at the same time reaching different conclusions. The internet did a better job of fostering cross community conversation eight years ago when Obama was first elected. America was better off because of it.